The answer to what is a marketing consultant and what does one do is layered and varied.
Though generally, someone in this profession will work as an outside marketing advisor to companies by designing, guiding and implementing their marketing strategies.
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The exact work can vary greatly depending on the client and the marketing consultant’s specialty. It can include connecting to the client’s target market via social media, copywriting, advertising or public relations.
“A marketing consultant, simply put, helps businesses reach more people and create more growth. Typically they help a business by evaluating their marketing plan and creating a strategy.”
– Sequoia Craig | Marketing Consultant at Sequoia Craig Design | Helping coaches through organic growth & growth hacking.
A person within this role would first create a strategy, craft a marketing message, and then identify the correct way to get the message out to the target market.
Depending on the level of involvement, a marketing strategy consultant may help execute the strategy, work with the in-house team, or bring in their own team to help. Once the marketing strategy is live, they will analyze results and continually optimize the campaigns. Being a strategic marketing consultant will bring one closer to success in their projects.
What Makes a Good Marketing Consultant?
Marketing is half art and half science and similarly, a good marketing consultant needs a mix of both hard technical and soft people skills. To be successful in marketing, you need to master both business and psychology and be able to communicate with both.
Beyond that, there are many specializations within marketing and the field is constantly dividing further with new technology and ways to communicate. Most marketers focus on one or two complementary roles rather than try to master all.
Rebecca Hoffman is a seasoned Marketing Consultant under GoodEggConcepts.com and is crystal clear on what she needs to deliver:
“I am hired to think big with my clients. Before I do anything we talk together, we think big together and we prioritize what we would like to accomplish, especially when resources are limited (I mean who has an unlimited budget to spend on marketing?). I am interested in ideation, testing and prototyping and seeing what works well. I specialize in being exceptionally creative in thinking through marketing tactics for businesses, I particularly love smaller businesses, professional services (such as law practices) and non-profits where fundraising and audience development are essential to success. I have a very big background in non-profit and organizational marketing and can do a lot once we define a good path to take.”
Marketing Consultant Specializations:
- Market research
- Social Media
- Online marketing
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Database marketing
- Media advertising
- Public relations
- Direct response marketing
- Guerilla marketing
If you are considering hiring a marketing consultant, look for one that has experience specifically in your business needs. This can be both their specialization as well as which business verticals they have worked in previously.
Also realistically consider your budget, timing, and the skill-set of your in-house team — the marketing consultant can come up with a winning strategy but if you can’t execute it properly, it’ll be a frustrating experience for everyone.
Should I Hire a Marketing Consultant?
Companies of all sizes can benefit from hiring a marketing consultant. Marketing consultants can add incredible value to your company, but they can also be an investment that isn’t always guaranteed to pay off. Knowing when to hire one is a big decision.
Joshua Feinberg, Digital Marketing Consultant, Content Strategist, and co-founder of SP Home Run clarifies:
Larger companies, with bigger internal marketing teams, tend to hire marketing consultants in very specialized areas. Smaller companies typically need extremely versatile marketing consultants (like a super-utility player in baseball that can comfortably handle five or more different positions on the field).
1. Fill A Skill Gap
There’s a number of reasons my you might want to hire a marketing consultant. One of the main reasons is that your in-house team lacks a specialized skill. Hiring a marketing consultant can fill in that missing expertise and kick start your marketing strategy.
Lauren Lang, an independent Content Marketing Strategy Consultant, who has over seven years of experience shared her thoughts on the pros of hiring one:
“A marketing consultant can be a cost-effective way to bring in expert insight into a company’s marketing practices without hiring for a full-time role. Often that person can serve in an advisory capacity, especially when many marketing teams are made up of more junior members and when marketing leaders are overwhelmed and pulled in a lot of different areas.”
2. Get Another Point of View
A second common reason to hire a marketing consultant is to get an external point of view. Your consultant will have experience working with a range of companies and will be able to see things that your own in-house team may be blind to. This often has nothing to do with the skill level of your own team but just the advantage of having a fresh set of eyes. If your in-house marketing team has been stuck, it might be time to hire.
3. Bring Customer Insights
Another reason to hire a marketing consultant is to bring new expertise about your business vertical or customer demographics. Some marketing consultants have niched down so they’re the experts on not just a specialization but a target demographic. If your strategies to reach a specific demographic aren’t working, it might be time to get someone laser-focused on that customer group.
4. Free Up Your Team’s Time
One more advantage to hiring a marketing consultant is to free someone else’s time. Maybe you’re the founder and have been doing marketing until now but as the business grows, you need to focus your attention elsewhere. Maybe you have an in-house marketing department that’s overwhelmed and you just want to get some tasks off their plate without hiring permanent staff.
When Should I Not Hire a Marketing Consultant?
When is it a bad time to hire a marketing consultant? Don’t try to market yourself out of a fundamental problem with your business. If your product, market fit or customer service is bad, fix that first. Also, consider your budget. Will you have the money to pay the marketing consultant AND execute the strategy? If you won’t be able to implement, it’s best to focus elsewhere in your business as a marketing consultant until you have a bigger budget.
Should I Become a Marketing Consultant?
Does life as a marketing consultant sound appealing? If you have a background in marketing, copywriting, or advertising, it might be a great next career step.
How to Get Started
Generally, though not always, marketing consultants start off working in a marketing department in-house. Once they have experience and connections in the industry, they transition to self-employment.
As a marketing consultant, you can either work independently and contract with businesses directly or partner with a marketing firm and work with their clients. As your client base grows, you can also start to hire your own team or subcontract work out.
Specialist vs Generalist
Although it might seem counterintuitive, it’s a wise idea to niche your marketing advisor services so your marketing consultation is successful. As you establish your brand, you can become an expert who is sought out rather than a generalist fighting for every mediocre project that crosses their desk.
For example, it’s much easier (and better paid) to become the go-to expert on selling cosmetics to Gen Z on TikTok than try to master all marketing skills and compete with thousands of other marketing consultants.
As a marketing consultant, you’ll have a high degree of freedom and get to be your own boss. For many people, this is reason enough to give it a try. Setting your own hours, avoiding a commute, and getting to pick the projects you work on are some of the perks of becoming a marketing consultant.
For Lauren Lang, “The primary benefit of being a marketing consultant is the opportunity to work with a wide variety of clients. Even though content strategy in my industry involves the same basic steps, I never get bored because each company brings a slightly different benefit to the table in terms of audience, product, and positioning. The fun is in uncovering those benefits and figuring out how to communicate them effectively”.
However like with anything entrepreneurial, there’s also a high level of risk involved. Just because you’re good at marketing, doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy the daily ins and outs of running your marketing consultancy. You’ll quickly discover that as an independent contractor, you also have to handle sales, operations, and finance and you likely will end up spending less time doing actual marketing than you did when you were an employee.
No matter which side of the equation you’re on — looking to hire a marketing consultant or become one — there’s a lot of value, creativity, and insight that can be gained from a good working relationship between client and marketing consulting.